Hell Hath no Fury Like a Woman Scorned

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So, I loved watching the “Dirty John” series about John Meehan and couldn’t wait for the 2nd season since I followed the Betty Broderick case closely.  If my sweet peeps don’t know, Betty was married to Dan for 21 years and ended up killing him in 1989 along with his new wife of 7 months, Linda.  Well, I’ve watched all 8 episodes now and all I can say is “WOW”…what a roller coaster.

Anyhoot, here’s the thing:  when I first heard about this case I had just graduated from college and was fascinated by it and how ‘nutsy’ this woman was since I had a freshly printed psychology degree.  I mean for piss sakes, she murdered her ex-husband and his new wife in cold blood.  It don’t get much worse than that, peeps.  🙄

People are now pontificating about the case again since this series is airing and I’m really starting to think that Betty wasn’t necessarily the ‘sick’ one in the marriage.  I believe Dan Broderick was.  “What?” you say…”Are you crazy, Kristi?”  Well yes, I sorta am.  However, bear with me and let me explain.

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So, Betty and Dan got married in their 20’s after she graduated from college through an accelerated program and Dan was still making his way through medical school which she helped finance.  Once he graduated with his M.D. though, he realized he didn’t want to be a doctor after all and decided he decided he wanted to be a lawyer instead.  Betty continued to work hard to put him through law school too (his contribution was school loans…she did the vast majority of the earning).  During this time, she was a stay-at-home mom to her 4 kids who came quickly (the children came quickly after the Broderick’s got married and another son died 2 days after birth) as well as working part time at various jobs like selling Tupperware and AVON.  Since Dan was studying all of these years, Betty was the primary parent with little help and since he had very clear notions about a ‘woman’s place’, Betty did virtually everything on the home front.

Long story short, Dan became a hot shot lawyer (with Betty encouraging him the entire time and still taking care of everything at home) and he even served as president of the San Diego bar association.  The money started coming in and Dan began to get more impatient and hateful with his wife.  Finally, Betty found out he had been having a 2 year affair with his assistant, Linda, who Betty questioned him about numerous times.  He lied every time she did and even ‘made up’ with Betty at one point and asked her for another baby so they could have a fresh start (her tubes were tied and he actually took her to a doc to see if this could be reversed).  This was all to cover his affair while he sorted his finances out before leaving her.  She had no idea.

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OK.  We obviously know how this ended:  Betty shot Dan and Linda while they were in bed.  It was cold-blooded murder, and there’s no denying that.  These poor children lost their dad and their mom in one fatal night and their lives were/are irreparably changed forever.  They are the real victims in this case above anyone else.

So why did I say Betty was a victim too?  Because in my opinion (and this is only my opinion, peeps) Dan was a sociopath and narcissist, and these are BAD things for the people who are unfortunate enough to love them.

We are just now finding out how abusive a narcissists behavior is to their ‘loved’ one and victims of this behavior suffer something called Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome.  Now remember, we’re talking about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and not just someone feeling over confident and cocky (😏).  Take a look at this because it sums up a narcissists behavior perfectly:

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When you read about how Dan treated Betty, ALL of these apply.  Every one of them.  Further, Dan used a technique called gaslighting where the person manipulates someone in order to make them question their sanity…in one instance, Dan didn’t tell Betty about a change in time for their final divorce hearing and she completely missed it.  Her divorce was granted without her ever knowing what the final decree presented in court was.  Another…Dan was buddies with lawyers and judges and he made it very difficult for her to retain a decent lawyer to help her out.  Not only did Dan make Betty think she was crazy, I believe he actually drove her crazy.

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And Betty did crazy things:  she ran her car into the front door of Dan’s new house, she made hundreds of prank phone calls, she went into their house when they weren’t home and destroyed property, she said horribly vile things about him and Linda to anyone and everyone who would listen, and the list goes on.  So yes…she was very out of control and her behavior was HORRIBLE, particularly since much of it was in front of her children.  That’s something that’s indefensible.

But think about this:  serious long time domestic violence can result in Battered Women’s (Wife or Person) Syndrome and this is considered a subcategory of PTSD.  The violence doesn’t have to be physical, which is what we often picture when we hear the word ‘battered’ but psychological (or sexual) as well.  When you look at the above actions of a narcissist and the behavior Dan displayed, I think it’s easy to say Betty was a psychologically battered woman.  I would never ever say physical battering is less traumatizing than psychological abuse because I saw ma with too many injuries that not only pained her, but left her fearful and timid.  However, psychological abuse is deemed just as bad since it batters the mind and kills the spirit.

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People who have been psychologically abused experience hopelessness, fear, shame, confusion.  They have difficulty concentrating, experience nightmares and somatic symptoms, they’ll often have muscle tension, racing heartbeats, and moodiness.  In time, the person can develop chronic pain (some research suggests this can lead to fibromyalgia), anxiety, and social withdrawal.  We see all of these in Betty.

To me, it’s as if Dan wanted Betty to be ‘crazy’ so he could get the lion’s share of the wealth he built up which was only possible because of Betty’s financial/emotional/home support she provided as he got his education.  He was also awarded custody of the kids she had raised virtually alone while he worked 12 days making money.  Well, he succeeded, didn’t he?  He wanted to drive her crazy and he did.

So why is she made out to be a villian?  Other women have killed their abusive husbands and have been deemed heroes.  They were in a fight for their lives and saved themselves.  They saw no other way out.  They needed to be freed from the torment.

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Only a ‘crazy’ woman would smile at her murder trial.  Right?

Isn’t psychological abuse torment too?  What do they use on prisoners to break them?  Hmmm. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health:  emotional and verbal abuse can have short and long term effects that are just as serious as the effects of being physically battered.  (This is even true for kids: the American Psychological Association has found that the mental health effects of a child being psychologically abused is equal to, or even greater, as those from physical or sexual abuse.  And this is in kids!)

Here’s the problem though…how do you prove psychological abuse?  How do you prove that the manipulation, degradation, verbal battering, lying, controlling, etc. are happening?  You can’t take a pic of it and show it to the courts.  You don’t have bruises or cuts or scars.  It’s your mind, and since the damage has been done and the person is acting out because of it, they are the ones seen as being unstable.  Sick.  Wouldn’t this make you even more crazed?

Look, I know it was terribly wrong of Betty to murder Dan and Linda in cold blood.  I get that.  But I think it’s important to understand that even though Betty had a nice house, a bit of money, etc. it doesn’t mean she wasn’t psychologically tormented.  It’s doesn’t mean she wasn’t treated so insanely that she started to become that way herself.  And yes, Betty is a very unlikable woman now, although she was very gregarious, fun and social prior to Dan’s treatment of her.  For Betty, the long-term effects of this abuse have taken their toll and in that way, Dan won.  He got what he wanted.  He wanted to drive his wife crazy, and apparently he did.

We simply can’t downplay the significance of psychological abuse any longer.  You don’t need bodily injury to be hurt and the messages/actions/behavior of psychological battering never heal.  How do you empty your mind of those words?  Those feelings?  Isn’t the mind capable of scarring too?  Isn’t it important we recognize how dangerous this battering is and take it seriously when someone has gone, or is going, through it?  This is a form of abuse that keeps on giving…long after the actual abuse has ended.  How sad that is.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion on Domestic Violence Victims

In one of my classes, we are currently talking about Domestic Violence and a discussion ensued yesterday regarding whether or not victims love themselves prior to getting into a relationship with the abuser.

Some of my students said you can love yourself, but still fall for the abuser because of their manipulation, idolization, and mask they wear.  Others said that only someone who didn’t love themselves would fall for that…would be vulnerable to their attention.

But, here’s the thing:  abusers are smart.  They are predators.  They know how to bait their hooks and trap their prey.  NO ONE would stay with a person who beat them on the first date!  Of course not!  All of my students say they would never ever stay with an abuser, but the truth is that many of them might do just that because what they don’t realize is how insidious the abuse is.  Abusers start out by idolizing you.  Making you feel like you’re the most special person in the world who can share anything and everything with them.  They are your soul-mate and once that’s felt, the hook has been set.  The next step is chipping away at what confidence, esteem, and love they have for themselves; slowly these things are chiseled away and the abuser is getting you to a place where you aren’t who you used to be.  They are devaluing you…making you feel less than…and eventually, your emotional/psychological boundaries have been compromised.  Also, that stuff you felt you could share with them?  That’s being used against you now.  They know your ‘weak spots’ and will use them any way they can.  Then, physical boundaries start to be tested.  A grab here.  A push there.  All the while seeing what your reaction is.

Have you ever heard the myth of a frog in boiling water?  It goes like this:  put a frog into a pot of boiling water and he’ll squeal and do anything he can to hop out.  BUT, put him in tepid water and turn the heat up very low to where the boiling is a process.  Because it’s so slow, the frog never fights it.  It’s in an environment that slowly becomes natural to them.

Now, even though I truly believe that anyone can be a victim of abuse by an abuser, I do believe that vulnerability to abusers can be attributed to different things.

  • First, I do think situations we go through can make us more needful of attention.  Partnership.  Togetherness.  It can validate someone who’s been rejected.  Abandoned.  Although we all need our own internal sense of self and self-love, external experience of this is important to us too.  
  • I also believe certain emotional traits can be seen in victims.  In this article, by Dr. Toby Goldsmith, he says that women of DV often:
    • have a poor self image
    • have low self-esteem
    • believe, unrealistically, they can change their abuser
    • feel a sense of powerlessness
    • believe that jealousy is ‘proof’ of love
  • Along with this, I believe personality traits can be tied to victimization too.  For example, people who are highly empathic have more sensitivity…they can align themselves with people more and feel with everything they have inside of them.  It’s more than just their heart that feels…it’s all of them that feels.  They are capable of giving so much in a relationship, and might believe that their care and love will ‘fix’ an abuser.  A great book to read regarding this is: The Empaths Survival Guide by Judith Orloff.
  • I’m a huge believer in the MBTI (You can take a free, online test and learn more about this assessment tool here: Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and feel there are some aspects of personality as described by the MBTI that could be correlated to DV:
    • Extroverts – extroverts often have difficulty with boundaries and let people in more easily than others.
    • Introverts – are often more isolated which is something attractive to abusers.  Also, they are more prone to depression and may also take on more blame because of ruminating over the situation and seeing blame in themselves.
    • Intuitionists – although you would think people with strong intuition would be BETTER at determining someone could be abusive, I believe (based on my own experience) that the gut feelings instead say things like this:  “But, I know there’s a good person in there!”  “I can tell they are suffering too, and I just need to figure them out.”
    • Feelers – feelers tend to make decisions based more on a personal, emotional level (thinking with their hearts more than their heads) and tend to personalize situations which can lead them to feeling guilt or culpability in abusive situations.  
  • In terms of mental disorders/illnesses, I think the following can be tied into victimization:
    • Borderline Personality Disorder
    • Dependent Personality Disorder
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Depression 
    • Anxiety Disorders
  • I also study a lot about attachment.  The attachment babies make to their first caregiver, usually their mothers, makes the ‘framework’ for all other future attachments.  This attachment can be secure or insecure:
    • Secure attachment makes the baby, and then later adult feel that:  
      • They’re lovable as they are
      • They are important and valued
      • They are worth protection and understanding
      • They are safe
    • Insecure attachment makes people feel that:
      • They’re not good enough to protect and keep safe
      • They have little value and are unimportant
      • They are not worth soothing and understanding
      • Because of these, insecurely attached individuals feel unsure of themselves in relationships and live with feeling that they aren’t worth their partners love and effort.  
    • Obviously, my belief is those with insecure attachments (one being the avoidant type and the other being the ambivalent type) don’t see the value, worth, and loveableness they have and will stay with an abuser out of insecurity and perhaps the feeling that they don’t deserve any better.
    • Lastly, we can’t ignore the fact that people who grow up in abusive homes have a much higher chance of becoming abusers, or victims, themselves.  In the PBS documentary No Safe Place, it’s said: “We (also) know that women who come from a family in which they witnessed their mother being battered are more susceptible to developing what is called ‘battered women’s syndrome’.  Such women may come to believe there is nothing they can do to get out of an abusive relationship.”  

So, the answer to understanding the ‘whys’ behind women and abuse are complicated, and can be a combination of everything above, or circumstances unique to the victim themselves. 

The take away is this:  abused women and men should never be judged for being, or staying, in a domestically violent relationship.  The dynamics of power, control, physical/verbal/psychological/sexual abuse, isolation, financial issues, threats, using children as tools of manipulation, ownership of weapons, lack of family/social support, etc. can all make it difficult through impossible for the victim to leave safely, even if the abuse is severe.  No one deserves to be abused.  NO one.  But every victim deserves our compassion. 

    Kristi xoxo